Over the course of last week, each group member generated their own questions and set of observations that they would like to analyse at a library. We then collaborated during class, combining all our ideas together and noticed quite a bit of overlap in the questions we came up with. After some cutting and pasting we created a guide for all the data we wanted to collect over the next week. We split our guide into three main categories: observations, staff and library patrons. Our guide has space at the bottom that allows for any general observations not fitting into these categories to be made. We believe that a guide is the most effective way of comparing and analysing information and ensuring that everyone collects the same type of data. We hope that the data we collect will give us a more informed understanding of why and how languages are used in authentic contexts. In creating the guide as a team, we know that we all understand the aims of what we are trying to achieve so that our outcomes will appear cohesive. We used Google documents to create this guide, as that way everyone can access and change the document whenever necessary. It also means it is accessible to anyone in our group whenever we decide to collect the data.
We assume that there will be a range of users in each of our libraries as we have endeavoured to pick libraries from different areas around Sydney. Currently we aim to collect data from, The Main Library at the University of New South Wales, New South Wales State Library, Epping Library, Waverly Library, Penrith Library and Pennant Hills Library. It is possible that data from the University of New South Wales’ Law and College of Fine Arts Libraries will be included.
We have discussed the idea of entering the library to make observations at two different times of a weekday. We think that the demographic of users would be very different on the weekend to on a weekday so we are trying to keep this variable consistent across our data collection by all going on a weekday. We also want to collect data twice in one day because we believe that the morning and afternoon will have different people using the space with the possibility of different language groups meeting at different points in the day.
We will also be considering the layout of the library. What sort of signage and symbols are used to explain the location of books, check out and toilets? And how effective these signs are at conveying this information? We will also be observing the areas available to patrons including whether or not there are places to sit as a group or as an individual or both and whether these spaces have a formal or informal atmosphere.
We also want to focus on the noticeboard and pamphlets that are available to the public and will make note of which language is used and what activities are being promoted. We will also hypothesise which audience these notices are reaching out to.
Other than our general observations, we will also be asking questions to both the staff and patrons of our respective libraries. The questions that the staff will be asked will relate to their interactions with the patrons and the resources available in the library, especially relating to the foreign language section. We are curious as to the nature of their interactions with patrons – are the conversations formal, polite, civil or do they encounter swearing, slang, or other signs of informal speech. We also intend on inquiring as to whether the staff received any training when it comes to the appropriate way to handle patrons who are not native English speakers.
We will be observing the dominant language spoken in the library, but also noting the presence of other languages and identifying them where possible. We also thought it would be important to make note of spaces where language is restricted. By this we mean any silent zones in the library where no language at all is allowed to be spoken.
We hope that with our methodological approach we will uncover data that is both interesting and accurate.